There’s definitely a top five when it comes to the most haunted spots in Monterey County, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. Instead, I’m going to get a little personal. I’m going to delve into my thoughts on banging out my upcoming book, Haunted Monterey County (coming October 2019 from The History Press). A Top 5 Most Haunted Monterey County – Locations is coming, however, being that there are easily five that rise to the top – it’s just coming later.
Below are the top five things that surprised me while prepping for the book:
Rest stops – If someone told me I’d be writing a book on ghosts and hauntings in the county, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I grew up hungry for Randall Reinstedt’s books. If someone told me that research would bring me to a rest stop outside of King City and that I would actually have fun going there, I would have spit out my coffee. Those who know me know I’m never without coffee. But as Han Solo once said, “All of it. It’s all true.” I did have a good time. It’s always fun to get out on a sunny Sunday for an adventure of the weird kind. You never know what can happen.
The Googles – Google may not know I’m working on a book, but the Googles helped me locate many of the sites and forums where Central Coast-specific ghost stories are shared. This means, from now until the Googles is goggled (or the end of time), I will get alerts about ghosts. This isn’t a bad thing really, since I’ve already come across creepy stories I’ve never heard before – usually from places on the east coast. Why the hell is that? I still get alerts about Bakugan too, though it’s been years since my son wanted one.
Excitement and some of the opposite – I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I’d get when news of this new addition to Monterey County’s ghost book collection broke, but the level of interest has given me a little bit of a pre-publishing high. Thank you to everyone who made that happen. There’s the opposite too, some who are less than thrilled to see another book on haunts summoned out of the Netherworld. I appreciate the curmudgeons! I am one. My hope is the book will appeal to them as well. There are stories in it that have appeared nowhere else. There’s history as well, plenty of it, which is why I enjoyed taking on this project. If the curmudgeons come away entertained, I’ll get even more high.
Paul’s talent – Just doing the ghost book, and paying tribute to Mr. Reinstedt, was enough, but then the idea came along to get some art in it. There are photos, quite a few taken when I visited the haunted sites (like the rest stop), but having one of California’s top talents on board made it even cooler. Paul Van de Carr is an incredible artist as you’ll see in the pages of the book.
The believers – I’m the first to admit I’ve never had a paranormal experience that I can recall. It’s not that I don’t believe, it’s just I don’t have the eyes for it. I can’t decorate my house in a fashionable way either. Don’t have the eyes for it. But there are plenty who do have the sight. They’ve seen a lot over the years too. While writing this book, I was (and still am) surprised at just how many people have stories, tales of that time they experienced something they just couldn’t explain. This book tells their stories, just as it tells history’s story.
It’s a geek’s fantasy realized. A nerd’s dreams turned flesh and blood. A dad’s headache from the noise, but worth it. I’m all of that and a grumpy bag of chips. But, as most of my friends know, I’m a sucker for heroes and stories. Being a father to a younger comics/pop culture aficionado, the 2018 San Francisco Comic Con was the place to hang our invisible fedoras. Before I get into what was (nice about it) killer, let me tack on a couple of bitches. It’s what I do. First off, consider larger conference rooms for some of the workshops. We missed Starlin (Starlin! The guy who devised the Infinity War storyline!) because it was too full, which got me pissy for a hot minute. Parking was also gnarly, but when isn’t it?
On to what was super:
10. Comic Con staff
A friend of one of the con’s founders, and I never got her name (a theme for me on this trip), was one of the first people my son and I encountered in the hotel elevator. She went above and beyond in helping us navigate what could have been, for a dense man like me, a confusing morning of con registration. Instead she got us hooked up the night before with our wrist bands and gave us the rundown on what to expect once the pop culture adventure exploded in our faces. You can’t beat that kind of customer service with a barbed-wire baseball bat.
9. Oakland Marriott
Who knew the Marriott was actually connected to the Convention Center where the San Francisco Comic Con was held? Not this doofus. It was a sweet surprise when we realized we wouldn’t have to leave the building. Riding the elevator from our posh room (with paper-thin walls, however, which I discovered thanks to a lusty romantic couple next door); we were deposited right into a throng of Deadpools, Darths, and Who Police Boxes. It was the best ever. Great place, great views, great that Netflix connected to the huuuge flat screen, and great staff.
8. Golden State Sweep
Not that it has anything to do with the con, but crazy as Hell that our trip to Oakland coincided like a train wreck with the Warrior Playoff sweep over the Cavs and LeBron James! When we got there, people were just taking to the streets downtown to celebrate, chanting “Warriors!” from the windows down to the subway. Some were even holding brooms from three stories above ground, sweeping the air, because why not? So it was a good kind of train wreck. Insanity save for valet parking. Warriors!
7. The Walking Dead Guy
I may be a newbie to the Walking Dead pop culture machine (on season four, so much blood), but my son isn’t. He’s the guy who got me hooked on it, so for him to meet one of the guys who made the dead walk in the pages of the original Image comic book was incredible. Dude was super nice too (isn’t it always a good idea to mention if someone is approachable? If it is, then everyone there was just that). The worst part? Not sure of his name…
6. Ginny Weasley
Her real name is Bonnie Wright, but for most of us in line to meet her, she was Ginny – beloved wife to the wizard we all know and root for: Harry Potter (HP to us cool kids). I can’t even write the name without saying it with an English accent in my head. My son and I, besides grabbing a pic with her, heard her talk about her work in directing and with environmental organizations like Greenpeace. As HP nerds, just getting to meet her was… magical (ugh).
5. Number One (at number five)
Genres of all kinds appeal to me. As a teen, none grabbed me more than Star Trek: The Next Generation when it came to weekly television. I was reading horror, flipping through Heavy Metal and Flaming Carrot Comics, but I never missed a single TNG episode. Not a single one. Jonathan Frakes is a polite, friendly guy in person – though to be fair meeting him was uber brief. But hey, being in the presence of Number One, the guy who gave us Star Trek First Contact, one of the reasons The Orville rocks, was enough to excite this fan boy.
4. Gerry Conway
You know meeting a Marvel Comics icon would make my list. I counted myself a True Believer during the days Lou Ferrigno got himself painted green every week. I was one of the only kids on my block who knew the word, “Excelsior!” And even back then, I knew about the Punisher. Gerry Conway is one of the co-creators of the character, which he introduced in Amazing Spider-Man No. 129. He’s also the writer who (gasp) killed off Gwen Stacy back in the day. I gushed on him at the con, but he was cool with it.
3. Afterburner Comics
What’s better than going to a gigantic comic con in Oakland (yes, it’s called the San Francisco Comic Con, and yes, I know San Diego’s is bigger, but does size matter?) and straying from your preplanned itinerary into uncharted territory (yes, I make itineraries). I found something pretty damn cool in Afterburner Comics and came away with a treat I wasn’t expecting. I found a new underground comic to sink my intellectual teeth into, one full of black and white noir and adults-only pizzazz. If you haven’t come across the brilliant Robert Stewart and Afterburner Comics, you’re missing out.
2. Claudia Gray
Claudia Gray is an author everyone should read. Many of us have in fact. She’s also a joy to meet in person. Her work has been made a part of the Star Wars universe, which tells you something about her prose. Whether it’s canon, not canon, I can never keep up, so I don’t know. I’m not one to let it bug me anyway. She’s a good writer and meeting her amidst the buzz and bang of the convention was a personal highlight.
1. The Cosplay
You hear about it in secret. You read about it on the dark web. You think you’re prepared. But then you walk into a man inside an inflated Pikachu. You see cosplayers in real life and you take a gut punch in the “I’m geeked out and really amazed” region. These people are incredible. The detail, the love and giddy excitement, are evident in what they do. Without the thrill of the cosplayers, conventions like the San Francisco Comic Con wouldn’t be the blinding, shining beacon of hip absurdity this world needs. They make these things what they are.
When asked what I mean when I write “In Curmudgeon” for a particular story, I usually say something about how too many writers, bloggers, social media scribes, etc., focus on the positive and very rarely rant on about a problem. To me, that’s a problem. No one has a perfect life, and pretending you do is problematic. By using “In Curmudgeon” at the beginning of a story, I am signaling that the writing takes a different approach. Life isn’t always a Rumi quote. Below is something of an artist’s statement on the process as I fleshed it out in my head.
The method isn’t anything terribly new, though I believe it can be applied to any writing style, be it prose, non-fiction, poetry; and can work in art as well. My series of Boris paintings would be a good example. Existentialism, brilliantly developed by Simone de Beauvoir, and gynocriticism, with a nod to Elaine Showalter, paved the way for new thoughts, while Poe’s style of gothic prose and Kerouac’s spontaneous prose, further charted a course for the development of narrative techniques. It helped me develop the in curmudgeon style, which I distilled and simplified over the last several years.
Intent: To bring awareness to depression, bad moods, dark thoughts and other forms of negative energy, and illustrate that it is neither odd nor uncommon to feel this way. To stop the common practice of pretending everything is okay all the time. To embrace what is, for some, a natural bend to see the worst in the world, and to put this style in the public eye. Rather than hide negative thoughts, complaints, and rants, even replace them with intentions of beauty and peace; In Curmudgeon takes the honesty back, highlighting what is wrong in the hopes humanity might grow by exposure to it.
Description: Writing in curmudgeon takes the philosophy in narrative writing that not everything is meant to be, not everything ends happily, and not everyone finds joy in simple things. It doesn’t pretend or lie to the reader. It’s about honesty and raw truth, which isn’t always available – thanks to a world that idolizes positivity, often at the expense of a grim reality. For some observers this constant form of positivity makes one feel like there is something wrong with them for looking darkly at the world, for not trusting the world. There are positives in this life, which can be reflected in curmudgeon, but celebrating the honesty in humanity is essential. Rather than face a world of increasing positivity, where popularity is measured by the appearance of success and social bragging, in curmudgeon is a place for those sick of hearing the lies.
Art Museums crack open young minds and pour in bravery. They make us think outside of our boxes (those selfish things that are covered this year in Bernie or Trump stickers) and look at them from new selfish boxes, maybe even from a perspective where the artist selfishly thinks they are outside of a box. The de Young Museum in San Francisco is no different. Famous paintings by artists like Diego Rivera, Salvador Dali, and Pablo Picasso titillate the imagination inside, as do other pieces of art, including Mayan artifacts and breathtaking Hawaiian feather work. It’s a beautiful place, first and foremost, and worth visiting, as are all Museums.
But the de Young left a lot to be desired in comparison to other museums when viewed through the lens of a first time visitor with no idea what to expect, or even how to get there. The following ten points are observed from that perspective.
Could not find parking. Are there signs anywhere? Is there really an underground parking area? Where is it? Do I need to know a guy who knows a guy to find it? On a Saturday, during an opening, seek parking in Golden Gate Park wherever you can find it and just hike in, even if it’s pouring rain. Parking should really be the first amenity.
Terrible signage in the park. Not until you’ve found a spot along the busy roadway do you see small “You Are Here” maps and only then do you know if you were luckily enough to park close to your destination. Usually you’re about a mile away. Consider some clearly visible signs. Please.
Signage on the de Young building’s exterior. Is it a myth? On March 12th, 2016, the only indicator the building was indeed the de Young Museum happened to be a giant, pinkish Oscar de le Renta banner. Maybe put the name outside in someplace clearly visible.
Long waits for tickets. With the de la Renta opening, lines were long and boring. There were three people operating ticket sales, one reserved for “will call” geniuses and two for the not-so-genius people that thought coming on a Saturday would be fun. One of the people operating ticket sales went on break, which leaves one to handle the long line, and leaves those standing in line wondering if the Museum has a staffing shortage. When it’s busy, see if there are extra bodies available.
Lunch at restaurant a confusing mess. You can simply grab items 7-11 style or you can get a menu, which you bring to the register (there may be two registers) and then order. From there you get a cafeteria style tray, your drinks and a number. Someone brings food to you later once you have found a place to sit amidst the throng. Luckily a meal for two is only about $50, which isn’t bad if you’re a Hilton. Order fast food style, order cafeteria style, or order menu style. Pick one.
They use the sticker system. Apparently, the two people operating the ticketing are supposed to tell visitors to peel a sticker off a portion of the ticket and affix it to their clothing. This gets you access to the galleries, as apparently just buying a ticket and wandering around just isn’t done there. Expect to be stopped if you haven’t put your sticker on. Consider making the sticker thing clear when the visitor pays.
No clear flow. If you use your intuition to wander the halls of larger museums, expect it to kick the bucket at the de Young. Is everything up the stairs, to the left as you leave the café, or what? Signage seemed lacking in this area as well. There was no rhyme or reason to finding it all and the little map, which most of us have folded up and put away by this point, do little to help. Consider directional arrows.
Truck stop bathrooms. The building has opted to herd the visitors into a single bathroom area, located not in the center of the building, but at one end. Should you have to go, hope that it isn’t a busy day and hope you’re not all the way at the other end of the Museum. Because that would suck. Consider more plumbing.
A minor point. Many museums offer books for bibliophiles to stick on their shelf. They’re all around the same size (art books) and give a little info on the galleries and their permanent collection. Not so with the de Young. Their art book, the one titled Inside and Out, is small enough to fit in the glove compartment and does not contain as much information. That and it doesn’t match on the shelf. Gift shop staffers, however, proved to be quite nice, which was a bonus. Consider a bigger, cooler book.
Stopped for suspicious purse. Expect a security person to stop you if you’re wearing a backpack or purse strapped to your back. Apparently this is also something those two people at the front desk are supposed to share with visitors but don’t. At least not every time. Consider making the rules clearer so not to disrupt someone’s museum experience by making them feel like they just got in trouble.